Are you a victim of sexual molestation?
Has someone crossed the line with you, having physically touched you somewhere they should not have, coerced you into physical intimacy, or said something overtly sexual to make you feel uncomfortable? Call the cops – you’re a victim of sexual molestation. According to criminal law in Singapore, sexual molestation is classified as “outrage of modesty.”
According to Section 354 of the Penal Code, outrage of modesty refers to someone who “assaults or uses criminal force to any person, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage the modesty of that person.”
But what does it mean to outrage one’s modesty? There’s no clear-cut answer for this, probably because the law leaves it open for interpretation. Circumstances, context, and the victim’s profile—his or her views, race, and religion, for instance—are important factors to consider in cases like this. That’s why the Penal Code does not have a definition for modesty.
When is it considered outrage of modesty?
Two things are needed for a case to be considered an “outrage of modesty”: the act of assaulting a person—in this case, with a sexual intent and/or manner—and that said act affects the victim. Take note, in the case of the former, the use of criminal force is crucial. Thus, instances like staring at a person inappropriately does not fall under this category.
Although the law does not expressly state it, there’s also a third, unspoken factor that makes the act of molesting a criminal offense: the lack of consent.
Outrage of Modesty as Sexual Misconduct
Since molestation can be part of a sexual act, outrage of modesty is a form of sexual misconduct. This is defined as sexual acts being done by force, intimidation, coercion, or simply, without consent. Usually, the perpetrator has some form of authority over you, and by coercing such acts, is thereby abusing his or her power.
Take note that intercourse is not a requirement for sexual misconduct or molestation. This can take the form of sexual discrimination, harassment, exploitation, and unwanted physical contact.
Victims of sexual molestation
Although most reports show that men are the perpetrators, anyone can be molested or be a molester. Thankfully, the law itself is gender-neutral, which means that with the proper evidence, anyone can be convicted for molestation.
In addition, most molestation cases involve persons of authority. It is common to see cases of power abuse, where the victim feels compelled to trade sexual favours in return for a promotion, to keep his or her job, or is being blackmailed into submission.
Molestation can happen in various situations, like at home, in schools, offices, or even in public places. These can include:
- Being groped in public transport like in buses or trains.
- A teacher or sports coach touching the breasts or thighs, or private parts of a student.
- Inappropriately slapping someone’s buttocks at work.
- Hugging and kissing a person without his or her consent.
NUS molestation case
A high-profile molestation case happened just in September 28, 2020, where National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate Terrence Siow molested a woman on the train. Siow was first sentenced to 21 months of probation, which he did not serve. Instead, the court gave him disciplinary sanction and mandatory counselling.
This sparked debate and public outrage, with the prosecution arguing that he had been convicted of multiple charges of molestation. Siow had not only touched the woman’s thighs twice on the train, but also followed her inside the elevator and touched her buttocks there. Siow even admitted that he had started touching women in buses and trains since 2016, suggesting that this may not be his first molestation attempt, but his first arrest. Eventually, the district court’s reasoning that an “educated person with potential to excel in life” cannot be jailed, was overturned. Siow was sentenced to two weeks of jail time.
Normally, for each count of molestation, the sentence includes a fine, jail time of up to five years, caning, or a combination of these depending on the circumstances.
Attempts of sexual molestation as punishable offenses
You may be wondering: must the perpetrator’s advances be physical to count as molestation? According to Section 511 of the Penal Code, “a person attempts to commit an offence punishable by this Code or by any other written law who, with the intention of committing that offence takes a substantial step towards the commission of that offence.” This means that mere attempts (even failed ones), as long as performed with the intention of violating the victim’s modesty – are still punishable by law.
What to do if you’ve been molested
If you’ve been molested, you can do the following:
1. Report the incident to the authorities
If you were molested in school or in your workplace, you’ll need to contact the authorities. Each organisation has different ways on how to handle and investigate molestation cases. You can report to your superior or teacher, but if they’re the perpetrator, you should approach your school counsellor, HR officer, or dean.
Once the matter has been resolved, you will be informed about the action taken against the perpetrator. These can range from counselling to suspension, or even dismissal.
2. Get help from the National Trades Union Congress (NUTC)
Applicable if you’re a union member. The NTUC is a labor movement and a network of professional associates and partners who can provide help regarding sexual misconduct in the workplace.
3. Report the incident to the police
This applies for all incidences of outrage of modesty or molestation. Even after reporting the matter to your company or school, you should still make a police report. You can reach the police at the emergency hotline 999, via SMS at 71999, or file a complaint at the iWitness program (https://eservices.police.gov.sg/content/policehubiwitness/iwitness-form.html?_ga=2.213215057.412658540.1611546004-191781837.1611243923).
4. Get a protection order
For your safety and well-being, you can apply for a protection order from the court against the perpetrator, which will:
- Prohibit the perpetrator from harassing the victim.
- Require that nobody publish or continue to publish harassing comments about the victim.
- Refer the perpetrator and/or the victim to attend counselling or mediation.
- Other acts that are needed for the PO to be effective.
This protection order covers a wide range of acts, which include workplace bullying and stalking that are committed by family, friends, colleagues or strangers. The period of protection will last for however long the court thinks the victim needs it.
5. Ask for compensation
Having one’s modesty outraged is a very traumatic situation for anyone. Thus, it is important to immediately report the situation to the proper authorities and to confide in someone you can trust, who can help you process your emotions and provide much-needed support.
You can also sue the perpetrator and demand monetary compensation. Take note that this will take time, since there are settlements to be discussed and investigations to be conducted. For this, you will also need a lawyer who specialises in criminal law in Singapore.
The legal team at IRB Law has had experience dealing with such cases and will be able to put your mind at ease about seeking recourse. For enquiries, call 6298 2537 today.